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Illinois Alcohol Abuse: Midwest 'Binge Drinking Belt,' By The Numbers

Illinois Binge Drinking

First Posted: 01/24/2012 8:32 am Updated: 01/24/2012 11:30 am

Data released Monday shows that some of the highest rates of binge drinking in the nation can be found in the Midwest -- specifically in Illinois.

The Atlantic's Richard Florida on Monday dug into data released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The research showed that binge drinking -- or consuming five or more drinks for men and four or more for women on one occasion -- continues to be a problem impacting many Americans and contributing to many associated health concerns.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that, according to the data, more than 38 million Americans drink an average of four times per month and that binge drinking is more common among households earning an income of $75,000 or more. That said, binge drinkers earning income less than $25,000 reportedly consume more drinks per occasion -- an average of eight to nine drinks.

According to The Atlantic, Illinois finds itself in the midst of what The Atlantic calls a "binge drinking belt" of Midwestern states with adult binge drinking rates hovering around 20 percent -- or one in five residents.

Illinois is further impacted by other factors the author argues signify a high average alcohol intake. His analysis shows binge drinking is more common in liberal states that voted for President Obama in 2008, as well as states that are generally more "extroverted."

Looking closer at Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data, it appears that, while Illinois has markedly higher rates of alcohol consumption than the national average, its binge drinking rate has held steady when compared to 2002 data (at 17.8 percent), its heavy drinking rate has actually declined slightly (from 5.9 to 5.7 percent), though its percentage of survey respondents admitting to consuming "at least one drink over the course of 30 days" has increased from 56.3 to 59.1 percent.

So, while the state is quite buzzed at any given time, some problem drinkers appear to be sobering up.

Chicago, alternatively, has seen an increase in alcohol consumption in all three categories the survey measures, even though its rate of binge drinkers is less than the state average. The city's current rates of binge drinking (17.1 percent in 2002, 17.2 in 2010), heavy drinking (5.5 percent in 2002, 6.1 in 2010) and "at least one drink in the last month" drinking (58.2 percent in 2002, 61.8 in 2010) outpace the national averages.

As of 2010, nationwide data stood at a 15 percent rate of binge drinking, 4.9 percent rate of heavy drinking and 54.1 percent rate of "at least one drink" in a month.

Still, those numbers pale in comparison to the state's neighbor to the north: Wisconsin. As of 2010, the state's binge drinking rate is 21.6 percent, its heavy drinking rate is 6.2 percent and 66 percent of Wisconsinites admitted to having at least one drink within the month before responding to the survey.

Binge drinking, according to the CDC, cost the country $746 per person, or about $1.90 per drink, in 2006 due to alcohol-related crimes, health care costs and "lost productivity" but some, namely renowned D.C. mixologist Derek Brown, have criticized such reports as misguided in their demonization of tossing back a few from time to time.

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Filed by Joseph Erbentraut  |